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Batavia Notre Dame United outlasts Canandaigua, advances to Class B finals

Batavia Notre Dame United celebrates reaching its first sectional finals as a combined program on Wednesday. (Photo Credit: Mike Rose, 89.1 the Point)

BATAVIA, N.Y.— Batavia Notre Dame United raced out to a 2-0 lead and held off the Canandaigua Gray Wolves late to win 5-4. With the win, the No. 1 seed in Class B advances to their first sectional championship game since the programs merged in the 2021-22 season.

B/ND seemed poised to win comfortably, building a 5-2 lead with 3:11 left in the game. However, Canandaigua punched back and beat goalie Rhys Tanner for a pair of late goals before coming up empty in search of the game-tying tally. Batavia Notre Dame United head coach Marc Staley hoped his team took something from being pushed to the brink.

"We thought the first goal of the game was going to be important," Staley said. "They've got a great goaltender so we wanted to try and get after him early. Defensively we've been really good all year. This is only the third game in the entire year that we've given up four goals or more. So this is a really different feeling in our locker room right now because up 5-2 pretty much we can lock teams down. But again, this is sectionals and anything can happen and you're playing against a good hockey team down there. We learned something from this tonight that hopefully we can carry into the finals."

Ivan Milovidov got the night started with a breakaway goal five minutes in. Orion Lama set the play with an end-to-end feed right on the tape of Milovidov.

"In practice, all the time coach talks about when they're forechecking us hard when there are two people, that means there is one less person in the neutral zone," Lama said. "Ivan has been phenomenal this year with it, he cut across the ice and I think I've been catching him on those passes for the last two years now and it was there, hit him and it led to an early lead."

A couple of minutes later Brady Johnson made the margin two on a power play goal set up by Jameson Motyka. B/ND took its two-goal edge to the end of the first but the tides turned a bit in the second.

B/ND's Orion Lama skates the puck into the neutral zone in the win Wednesday. (Photo Credit: Mike Rose, 89.1 the Point)

Maddox Smith broke the ice first for Canandaigua to cut the deficit in half. A backhand finish from Milovidov extended the lead back to two. His second goal of the game was also his sixth in the two sectional contests for B/ND. Jacob Benne scored the all-important next goal with 43 seconds to play in the middle period to make it a 3-2 game. As the final horn sounded in the second Joe DiRisio was whistled for a slashing penalty which set up a Gray Wolves powerplay when the third period began.

B/ND stood tall on the penalty kill before Milovidov got free again. Canandaigua's Karl Warren tripped him before he got in cleanly triggered a powerplay for B/ND and they took full advantage. Motyka found the back of the net to make the cushion two goals once again with 13 and half minutes to play in the game. The margin remained there until Motyka scored his second of the night to push the edge to 5-2.

"I hadn't scored the past four games so I needed these two and they came at the right time," Motyka said.

However, the Gray Wolves weren't ready for their season to end that easily. With the goalie pulled, Garrett Richards found the back of the net to make it a two-goal game. Maddox Smith followed with his second goal of the night to make it a 5-4 game with 1:27 to play. Despite their best efforts, Canandaigua couldn't push across the equalizer late.

"We didn't maintain our composure late, Canandaigua just ran out of time, to be honest with you," Staley said. "We went up 5-2 and we backed off a little bit which in retrospect we probably shouldn't have and we gave up a few odd man rushes, a few penalties and Canandaigua is a great team. When your back is against the wall and you're playing desperate this is what happens. There is no easy out at this point in the season. This team was playing really well recently so we're happy to get the win. I wish I could've breathed a little better the last four minutes but I'm proud of these kids for getting back to the sectional finals."

B/ND will take on No. 3 Webster Thomas in the finals on Monday night, Feb. 26, at the Gene Polisseni Center on the campus of RIT with the opening face-off scheduled for 5:30 p.m.

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